International Mobility Decisions for Graduates in Science and Engineering: The Case-study of India

Metka Hercog, Center for Cooperation and Development, EPFL

Faced with a situation in which countries compete for international students, it becomes especially important to understand students’ preferences regarding migration behaviour. This is important for all actors involved in international higher education, including educational institutions, governments and employers in receiving as well as in sending countries. Knowledge of decisive factors for mobility helps competitors for highly-skilled migrants in attracting people, and contributes to understanding why certain countries attract dominant shares of foreign students while other countries, in spite of increased efforts to attract students, have not been so successful.This seminar presents a case study of India, an important player in student mobility with 5.5% of the global total of internationally mobile students and a threefold increase of the last decade. It includes a quantitative and qualitative analysis aimed at understanding the drivers of student mobility from India in terms of a) general intentions to move and b) destination-specific migration intentions. Whether a student plans a career in academia or wants to work in a company has a decisive influence on where they see themselves in the near future. Especially students at universities focused on applied work are more likely to get hired by companies in India straight after their studies. The aspects put forward by the New Economics of Labour Migration, which highlight the importance of stability and social security, as well as the aspects of amenities literature about the attractive local environment turn out to be secondary in the importance of preferences for the place of living. Parents’ support is crucial for moving abroad, in moral as well as in financial terms. Tight social networks involve obligations which may undermine individual economic initiatives, therefore family support for moving abroad is essential. Non-kinship migrant networks turn out to be most relevant for increasing aspirations. Information on new destinations is more likely to spread through relatively weak connections such as colleagues and not through close contacts. We find out that students who would choose any of the continental European countries as a preferred destination have either been abroad in the past or have colleagues abroad which can be used as bridgeheads. Especially countries which are missing exisiting Indian networks should focus on fostering international cooperation of universities and research institutes and encourage student exchange programmes to faciliate the initial stages of network creation.


Venue: Conference room

Date: 17 October 2012

Time: 12:30 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT